July 19, 2013

Northwestern researchers create state-of-the-art massively multiplexed beam pen lithography desktop nanofabrication tool

A new low-cost, high-resolution tool is primed to revolutionize how nanotechnology is produced from the desktop, according to a new study by Northwestern University researchers.

"With this breakthrough, we can construct very high-quality materials and devices, such as processing semiconductors over large areas, and we can do it with an instrument slightly larger than a printer," said Chad A. Mirkin, senior author of the study and a world-renowned pioneer in the field of nanoscience.

The paper details the advances Mirkin's team has made in desktop nanofabrication based upon easily fabricated beam-pen lithography (BPL) pen arrays, structures that consist of an array of polymeric pyramids, each coated with an opaque layer with a 100 nanometer aperture at the tip. Using a digital micromirror device, the functional component of a projector, a single beam of light is broken up into thousands of individual beams, each channeled down the back of different pyramidal pens within the array and through the apertures at the tip of each pen.

The nanofabrication tool allows one to rapidly process substrates coated with photosensitive materials called resists and generate structures that span the macro-, micro- and nanoscales, all in one experiment.

Key advances made by Mirkin's team include developing the hardware, writing the software to coordinate the direction of light onto the pen array and constructing a system to make all of the pieces of this instrument work together in synchrony. This approach allows each pen to write a unique pattern and for these patterns to be stitched together into functional devices.

"There is no need to create a mask or master plate every time you want to create a new structure," Mirkin said. "You just assign the beams of light to go in different places and tell the pens what pattern you want generated."

Because the materials used to make the desktop nanofabrication tool are easily accessible, commercialization may be as little as two years away, Mirkin said. In the meantime, his team is working on building more devices and prototypes.

Using optimized conditions, the total writing period can be decreased to ~70 ms. This implies that writing 1 square cm reticle would require 1.75 second for 1 μm resolution and 44 s for 200 nm resolutions, a ~10,000 fold improvement
in writing speed relative to the instrument presented here.

Nature Communication - Desktop nanofabrication with massively multiplexed beam pen lithography

Spacex shifting to launching about once per month in 2014, 2015 and 2016

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) on July 14 test fired the core stage of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket that will be used to launch Canada’s Cassiope space weather satellite this September, a company spokeswoman confirmed.

“The recently tested booster is the first stage for SpaceX’s upcoming next-generation Falcon 9 demonstration flight for MDA and their Cassiope mission,” SpaceX spokeswoman Christina Ra said in a July 15 email. “The same updated design will apply to all Falcon 9 flights moving forward.”

The test lasted “for approximately three minutes".

Spacex has 5 launches planned for 2013 (one already launched) and then shifts to about 12 launches per year in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

With Rupee down the Indian GDP is down to US$1.68 trillion, China is five times bigger in nominal GDP

Indian rupee has declined further against the US dollar to Rs. 59.3 today. At this exchange rate, India's GDP is down to US$1.68 trillion, about $200 billion less than it was in Fiscal 2011-12.

India's economy grew by 5.0% in 2012-13, its slowest annual rate in a decade, down from 6.2% last fiscal year. In the fourth quarter ending in March, gross domestic product grew by 4.8% year-over-year, slightly higher than the previous quarter when it expanded by 4.5%, according to Indian government data.


China's GDP is on track to about US$8.1 trillion (not counting Hong Kong and Macau). China+Hong Kong and Macau is about five times the economy of India in nominal US$ GDP.

Skylon Single stage to orbit Spaceplane with Sabre engines prototypes are expected by 2017 and engine flight test by 2020

Flight tests of an engine for the UK Skylon spaceplane are expected by 2020 and a prototype engine is expected by 2017. Two Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engines (SABRE) will power the Skylon space plane — a privately funded, single-stage-to-orbit concept vehicle that is 276 feet (84 meters) long. At take-off, the plane will weigh about 303 tons (275,000 kilograms). The two SABREs are located on the tips of the delta wings attached midway down the Skylon’s dart-like fuselage, powering it to deliver up to 33,000-pounds (15,000 kg) into orbit.

The UK government has committed £60 million ($90 million) has been committed to begin building the SABRE prototype.

Reaction Engines’ SABRE development program plans to flight-test the engine using an unmanned aircraft called the Nacelle Test Vehicle. The entire development program will require a consortium of companies, and Reaction Engines has been seeking partners as well as financiers.

SABRE burns hydrogen and oxygen for thrust, acting like a jet for Skylon's flight through the thick lower atmosphere, taking in oxygen from the atmosphere to combust it with onboard liquid hydrogen. But when the Skylon space planereaches an altitude of 16 miles (26 kilometers) and five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), it switches over to its onboard liquid oxygen tank to reach orbit.

The Skylon reduces the required mass ratio by improving the engine specific impulse by operating in an airbreathing mode in the early stages of the flight – up to around Mach 5.5 and an altitude of 25 kilometres before the engine switches to a pure rocket mode to complete the ascent to orbit. This makes a very significant difference; a pure rocket needs to achieve an equivalent velocity of around 9200 m/sec (7700 m/sec orbital speed and 1500 m/sec in various trajectory losses) whereas the airbreathing absorbs about 1500 m/sec of the orbital speed and 1200 m/sec of the trajectory losses so the pure rocket phases needs to provide only 6500 m/sec and this increases the minimum mass ratio from 0.13 to 0.21. Even with the extra engine mass required for the airbreathing operation this is a far more achievable target.

The Skylon development is estimated to take 9.5 years (2023 or so) and cost $9.518 Billion (2004 prices). The development program will produce a vehicle with a life of 200 flights, a launch abort probability of 1% and a vehicle loss probability of 0.005%. Assuming a production run of 30 vehicles each vehicle would cost about €565 M. In operation it should be capable of achieving a recurring launch cost of €6.9 M per flight or less.

Technical publications related to the Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor Keynote that talked about 180 nm transistors printed for $25 per square meter

So the EETimes reported on the keynote address of Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor at Semicon West where Janusz mentioned -

UC Berkeley is now developing printed transistors at 180nm. The technology could deliver chips costing $25 a square meter, not the $25,000 per square meter of current processes, again a huge cost reduction that is mind boggling.

There is a 121 page PHd dissertation by Huai-Yuan Tseng (UC Berkeley) who is in Vivek Subramanian group where he talks about scaling of inkjet printing of transistor technologies. The Dec 2011 paper talks about 200 nanometer features. Presumably they have improved it to 180 nm in the last 19 months. Plus there is a lag in the production of a dissertation paper.

Roll to Roll Printing of transistors

Advanced Materials - High-Performance Printed Transistors Realized Using Femtoliter Gravure-Printed Sub-10 μm Metallic Nanoparticle Patterns and Highly Uniform Polymer Dielectric and Semiconductor Layers

Using a novel high-speed, femtoliter-scale, micro-gravure printing with unprecedented scaling to the sub-10 μm regime and appropriately formulated, characterized, and optimized nanoparticle and polymer ink materials, highly scaled organic thin-film-transistors (OTFTs) are realized. They have excellent DC and AC characteristics and achieve record transition frequencies of 300 kHz, which opens up new classes of applications.

The thesis talks about 200 nm features, the roll to roll work would suggest large volume and cheap transistors. Presumably Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor is in closer contact with Vivek as to how this can all fit together for 180 nm transistors at $25 per square meter.

Vivek Subramanian group publications.

Making Online Learning Faster and more fun by adding more artificial intelligence

Udacity has evolved the MOOC (massive open online courses) concept into one that really helps people throughout the course; to complete the course. The most recent completion rates in pilots we’ve been running have been 85 percent, as opposed to 5 percent or 4 percent, which is common in MOOC-land.

Started in 2012, Udacity’s goal is to make education affordable for everyone. All classes are available for free on the Web, and some also offer college credits for a fee of $150. Sebastian Thrun (Udacity CEO) has worn many hats in the tech world: Stanford research professor, founder of Google’s X Labs, where he oversaw the development of self-driving cars and Google Glass, and, most recently, passionate advocate for MOOCs.

Even at the top-notch institutions you find that students often take the courses that are the least work. Some people are in there for learning, but some people are in there to say we want to have a certificate. Sometimes it’s because the courses are just too long. Many MOOCs are like semester-long classes, and they’re just a long time to sit in each. In this day and age, I mean, if you look at video games, that are much, much shorter, and tweets are shorter than e-mails, right, so everything is becoming shorter, faster.

We have to really work on artificial intelligence, really understand, like, where can we take a student if they have a certain kind of learning profile? We do some of it manually right now, so we analyze student profiles, we make predictions of what are the success rates, and then we intervene manually right now based on the predictions we get from students’ profiles. But we haven’t automated this yet. So eventually it’s going to be a big piece of artificial intelligence that sits there, watches you learn, and helps you pick the right learning venue or task, so you’re more effective and have more pleasure.

In 5 years, Udacity wants to be a university for the 21st century.

More efficient urban transportation could save $70 trillion by 2050

Policies that improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems could help save as much as USD 70 trillion in spending on vehicles, fuel and transportation infrastructure between now and 2050, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

Among the three broad categories of policies recommended in the report are those that allow travel to be avoided, those that shift travel to more efficient modes, and those that improve the efficiency of vehicle and fuel technologies. The report notes that if fully implemented across the transportation sector, this “avoid, shift and improve” approach could save up to USD 70 trillion in terms of lower spending on oil, roadway infrastructure and vehicles.

“Avoid” policies address transport energy use and emissions by slowing travel growth via city planning and travel demand management. “Avoid” policies also include initiatives such as virtual mobility programs (e.g. tele-working) and implementation of logistics technology.

"Shift” policies enable and encourage movements from motorized travel to more energy efficient modes, such as public transit, walking, cycling and freight rail. For example, increases in affordable, frequent and seamless public transport can alleviate local congestion while improving access and travel time to destinations and reducing household expenses on travel.

“Improve” policies can reduce energy consumption and emissions of all travel modes through the introduction of efficient fuels and vehicles. “Improve” policies include tightened fuel-economy standards and increased advanced-vehicle technology sales (e.g. clean diesel trucks and hybrid and plug-in electric cars).

Portable solar pavillion

A carbon fiber tube ring is deformed into shape by the tailoring of skin which binds it. The frame pushes out while the skin pulls in, creating a form-force equilibrium that is lightweight, cost-efficient, and easy to assemble and disassemble. The pavillion is designed so that when it is disassembled it will fit inside the V60’s trunk dimensions for easy transportation.

It unfolds to have an area about double or triple the surface area of the car for more solar power collection.

The fabric has embedded Photovoltaic panels and light collected from the sun or indoor artificial lighting to power the pavillion and charge the V60 model on show. The car will ‘plug’ directly into the pavillion’s skin.

New Penn World 8.0 Purchasing power parity

The Penn World Purchasing Power Parity GDP tables are out for version 8.0.

They have improved the internet interface to the data.
They have different GDP measures. By some measures China should have passed the USA in PPP in 2012.

They provide a lot of new cross-country data (on capital stock, factor shares, etc.), For the first time, there are separate output- and expenditure-based estimates of GDP (previous versions contained only the latter).

GDP estimates for 2005 are based on actual (and detailed) cross-country prices collected in the International Comparison of Prices (ICP, 2005) project. Estimates beyond 2005 (for non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries) are extrapolated according to procedures that are still not robust.

The new International Comparison of Prices (ICP, 2011) will be available from the World Bank in December of this year.

July 18, 2013

Pew Survey finds 23 of the 39 countries believe China has or will surpass the USA as the leading superpower

In 23 of the 39 countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities said China has overtaken or will overtake America as the world's leading superpower. Pew surveyed 38,000 people in March and April.

More have a favorable view of the U.S. compared with China.
* 63 percent have a positive view of America
* 50 percent have a positive view of China.

The U.S. was viewed more positively in every region in the world except the Middle East — where only 1 in 5 respondents had a favorable view of America.

The Motor City, Detroit, Becomes the largest US city to file for Bankruptcy

The city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court Thursday, laying the groundwork for a historic effort to bail out a city that is sinking under billions of dollars in debt and decades of mismanagement, population flight and loss of tax revenue.

The bankruptcy filing makes Detroit the largest city in U.S. history to do so.

The filing begins a 30- to 90-day period that will determine whether the city is eligible for Chapter 9 protection and define how many claimants might compete for the limited settlement resources that Detroit has to offer. The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities.

Detroit has a population of 700,000. About $26,500 worth of debt for every man, woman and child.

Small permanent panelized homes $10000-25000 with 2X6 kit construction, foundation, electricity and plumbing

The standard foundation for all Kanga structures is a 2x6 treated lumber floor joist panel that rest on 4x4 treated lumber skids. The skids are set on concrete patio stones that are leveled at the build site and anchored to the ground. The cost of this type of foundation is figured into the price of the building. Sites that make this type of foundation unworkable because of unevenness in the terrain will require an alternate foundation system.

The Kanga sheds cost about $3000 and the cottages and houses cost $7000 (120 square feet) to $22000 (600 square feet). Plumbing and electricity can be added for about $2500-3500.

The floor system, wall system and roof system all come in panels that are no bigger than 4x8. This is designed so that one or two people can handle the panel. The floor panels are set on level beams where the 1 1/8’’ plywood is attached. The wall panels are then erected using screws OR a nail gun. Then the supplied beams (the size and number of beams varies depending on the model) are erected on the walls. The roof panels are then attached to the beams. The roof covering is then applied.

All parts of the kit are designed to make installation as efficient as possible. A skilled construction crew can assemble our basic studio or shed kits in three days or less in most instances. The kit DOES require a moderate level of construction skill and knowledge of the use of the proper tools. If you have never done any building before or do not consider yourself mechanically inclined then handling the install yourself is not recommended.

However, if you do have some basic construction skills and feel comfortable with the tools required then installing the kit should be very manageable. All kits come with a detailed set of instructions as well as phone support from our design experts here at Kanga Room Systems.

Ikea solar powered shelter can last 10 times longer than a refugee tent and could cost $1000 in mass production

The best shelter we can usually offer the world’s tens of millions of refugees is a tent. Ikea has designed a cheap, solar-powered hut that only takes four hours to assemble but offers refugees more protection and privacy. It is a steel frame with Porta potty plastic panels and solar power on the roof.

More than 43 million people--globally--live as refugees or "internally displaced" (refugees within their own countries), having fled home due to "a well-founded fear of persecution" of race, religion, nationality, or socio-political membership. Right now, 3.5 million of them live in UN-provided tents, says Per Heggenes, CEO of the Ikea Foundation.

Canvas UN tents that start to disintegrate after about six months. The new Ikea-inspired shelters are built to last 10 times that long. They’re twice as large as an old-school refugee tent, at 17.5 square meters (fitting five people comfortably) and take about four hours to assemble.

They currently cost $10,000 to make, but they’re hoping to get that price down to less than $1,000 when they’re in mass production. The tents cost half that, but they hope to have the cost even out, given the long life of the shelters

DARPA hollow core fiber will guide light 30% faster and reduce latency for internet, gyroscope and intense optical beam applications

A team of DARPA-funded researchers led by Honeywell International Inc. developed new hollow-core fiber is the first to include three critical performance-enabling properties:

* Single-spatial-mode: light can take only a single path, enabling higher bandwidth over longer distances;
* Low-loss: light maintains intensity over longer distances;
* Polarization control: the orientation of the light waves is fixed in the fiber, which is necessary for applications such as sensing, interferometry and secure communications.

Hollow-core fiber can also be bent and coiled while guiding light at speeds 30 percent faster than conventional fiber. The hollow fiber also will enable higher intensity optical beams.

The real breakthrough with COUGAR (Compact Ultra-Stable Gyro for Absolute Reference) fiber is that it can achieve a single-spatial-mode, maintain polarization and provide low loss, all while keeping more than 99 percent of the optical beam in the air.

New Material Upsalite has the highest surface area for its type and will have breakthrough performance water absorption applications

A new magnesium carbonate material that has been given the name Upsalite. It is foreseen to reduce the amount of energy needed to control environmental moisture in the electronics and drug formulation industry as well as in hockey rinks and ware houses. It can also be used for collection of toxic waste, chemicals or oil spill and in drug delivery systems, for odor control and sanitation after fire.

Upsalite had the highest surface area measured for an alkali earth metal carbonate; 800 square meters per gram.

“This places the new material in the exclusive class of porous, high surface area materials including mesoporous silica, zeolites, metal organic frameworks, and carbon nanotubes”, says Strømme.

“In addition we found that the material was filled with empty pores all having a diameter smaller than 10 nano meters. This pore structure gives the material a totally unique way of interacting with the environment leading to a number of properties important for application of the material.”

Upsalite is for example found to absorb more water at low relative humidities than the best materials presently available; the hydroscopic zeolites, a property that can be regenerated with less energy consumption than is used in similar processes today.

Electron microscopy images of Upsalite. a) SEM micrograph of Upsalite. Scale bar, 1 µm. b) Higher magnification SEM of a region in a) clearly showing the textural porosity of the material. Scale bar, 200 nm. c) Representative TEM image of Upsalite showing contrast consistent with a porous material. The image is recorded with under-focused conditions to enhance the contrast from the pores. Scale bar, 50 nm.

PLOS One - A Template-Free, Ultra-Adsorbing, High Surface Area Carbonate Nanostructure

UC Berkeley developing 180 nm printed transistors at $25 per square meter which is 1000 times cheaper than current processes

UC Berkeley is now developing printed transistors at 180nm. The technology could deliver chips costing $25 a square meter, not the $25,000 per square meter of current processes, again a huge cost reduction that is mind boggling.

UPDATE - Here are some technical documents related to UC Berkeley's work on printed transistors. I have not yet found a combination research work that states that they have 180nm printing transistors with $25 a square meter cost. There is one dissertation that talks about printing 200nm feature size transistors and another that talks about roll to roll printing larger transistors.

Janusz Bryzek of Fairchild Semiconductor thinks we are looking at a trillion (yes trillion) sensors and MEMS as the big driver. A trillion sensors will be where the Internet of Things takes off.

* The mobile market is the bullet train of MEMS and sensors. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has eight sensors today and who know how many more in the next version.

* 3D printing and printed electronics have huge implications for IoT because sensors can be printed on anything (even your arm) and could become very cheap. Anybody see an inflection point there?

* Using microfluidics on paper opens up the possibility of a lab on a chip, which could change medical diagnostics forever. That's going to generate huge amounts of data -- and you can forget about the plastic bottle for samples!

* Printing sensors on skin is also a huge breakthrough and points to the fact that much of IoT will probably be triggered by medical applications which are sucking up a big chunk of our GDP these days. We need this technology now.

There will be trillion sensor summit at Stanford Oct 23-25, 2013

Aubrey de Grey donates $13 million of his own wealth to SENS life extension

Aubrey de Grey's mother died in May 2011. He was her only child. He inherited roughly $16.5 million. He assigned $13 million to SENS. His donation will be spent over a period of about five years, and it roughly doubles the budget they had previously, from $2 million annually to $4 million. The number one external donor remains Peter Thiel. Additionally, another internet entrepreneur, Jason Hope, has recently begun to contribute comparable sums.

Readers can donate to SENS life extension through the repair of damage caused by aging at this link

Aubrey has great confidence that our outreach efforts will bear fruit in that time. His hope is that five years from now we will be big enough that the expiry of my donation will go relatively unnoticed.

Aging is not a risk factor for disease. Aging is the CAUSE of the diseases of old age, and we need to start saying so.

Life Extension Foundation interviewed Aubrey and got an update on SENS research

July 17, 2013

Changing processing has made far stronger carbon nanotube based reinforced polymer fiber

Mar­ilyn Minus, an assis­tant pro­fessor of engi­neering at North­eastern, has devel­oped a type of carbon nanotube based polymer fiber that is stronger than the first kevlar, spectra and—even in its first generation—closely approaches the strength of the fourth (Zylon). It’s the crys­tal­liza­tion process that drives the remark­able prop­er­ties recently reported. In their research, Minus and her col­leagues showed that they could easily turn these prop­er­ties on or off. By changing nothing but the pat­tern of heating and cooling the mate­rial, they were able to increase the strength and tough­ness of fibers made with the very same ingre­di­ents. In the cur­rent research, Minus and her col­leagues worked out the recipe and process for one par­tic­ular polymer: polyvinyl alcohol. “But we can do this with other poly­mers and we are doing it,” she said.

From carbon black powder to metallic par­ti­cles, a variety of mate­rials can guide the for­ma­tion of spe­cific crystal types in a process called nucle­ation. But before carbon nan­otubes, Minus said, “we’ve never had a nucle­ating mate­rial so sim­ilar to poly­mers.” This sim­i­larity allows the nan­otubes to act likes skates along which the long polymer chains can slide, per­fectly aligning them­selves with one another.

Macromolecular Materials and Engineering - Forming Crystalline Polymer-Nano Interphase Structures for High-Modulus and High-Tensile/Strength Composite Fibers

Google Engineers could be among the first for life extensions technologies in the next decade hints Google Director of Staffing

Here's Google's recruitment slogan from the future: "Come work at Google and live longer. It's a Singular Experience!"

How can other companies compete?!

Google can make sure its engineers have a seat on the Singularity bus. It already has the driver of the idea in Ray Kurzweil, and the Singularity will require the world's largest, most powerful computer system, which is exactly what Google is building.

Earlier this week, at a Commonwealth Club Inforum event on the topic of HR and what Silicon Valley companies such as Twitter, and Cisco Systems are doing to attract the best people, panel member Todd Carlisle, Director of Staffing at Google, had the last word, by teasing a possible future scenario.

He asked, what if a perk of working at a company was that it extended your life? He said that people would likely never leave, they would be incredibly loyal.

US all liquid oil production over 12 million barrels per day and crude oil production almost at 7.5 million bpd

Progress towards Human Anorectal Transplants

A new study indicates that human anorectal transplantation is possible anatomically and technically. They anticipate our study will aid in the potential future application of this procedure to human patients.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about progress towards human head or technically full body transplantation (full body transplantation from the neck down would include anorectal transplantation).

Anorectal transplantation is a method for patients who have lost their anorectal function or suffer from congenital anorectal dysfunction to recover this function, and this has been investigated in experimental animal models using pigs, dogs, and rats. In this study, we performed an examination of anorectal transplantation in human cadavers to investigate whether this procedure could be performed in patients.

Picture at the very bottom of the article. Not pretty. Do not go there if you do not want to see it

There are of course valid and wonderful quality of life improvements that this technology could enable.

However, I will briefly make a reference the first season of South Park. [Let me know if you can find a video clip of the South Park scene.

"Here is a monkey with four asses. And here of course is my four-assed ostrich and four-assed mongoose."
- Mafesto

What could we do if human population kept going up and did not level off ?

I have already detailed how humanity has not overshot the carrying capacity of the earth and how humans will be able to feed and provide clean water for drinking agriculture and industry for over 15 billion people.

Yes the population projections now are for population to level out by about 2050 at about 8.5 to 9.5 billion people. but population projections out to 2100 get super dicey with population between 5 billion and 19 billion (UN forecasts) The reason for the big variance ? The people who will be doing the breeding have not been born yet. So we do not really know what they will do. We can look at per capita wealth and likely health. Plus people argue about what about too many people. So I say ok. Let us go there and see that there are options that could be used if we had to and doom and collapse would not be what happens.

Business as usual improvements to agriculture (better crops with genetically guided plant breeding, precision agriculture and other measures) we can reduce water usage in half and increase crop yields by double over 2-3 decades.

Greenhouses can use 1/6th the water and 1/10th the land to produce the same amount of crop.

Hydroponics can use 1/20th the water. Aeroponics used 65% less water than hydroponics. NASA also concluded that aeroponically grown plants requires ¼ the nutrient input compared to hydroponics

There have been proposals for large scale hydroponics adoption.

Simplified hydroponics was developed in the early 1980’s in Colombia.These projects were a success as on average a single garden made a profit of $90 in two to three months with the initial investment being $355. Since 1984, projects have been implemented in 12 Latin American and African countries, mostly funded by the UNDP and the UN FAO.

Costs for building gardens for Asia tropical areas

Of the estimated 790 million people classified as hungry in 2000, 525 million lived in Asian nations (UN FAO, 2000).
This is a rough estimate of what Bradley and Marulanda (2000) estimated would be the cost of setting up a hydroponic garden in Tropical Asia.

The total number of beneficiaries would be 232 million for 50 million gardens, each garden accommodating an average family unit of 4. Initial cost of setting up a garden amount to $355 including a year supply of nutrients and seeds. The total cost of implementing this plan in Tropical Asia is 20 billion dollars but it generates a revenue of 135 billion per year. Income from each garden would be about $329-1405 per year.

Indoor and vertical farming have been proposed. Indoor farming can produce crops year-round. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. With some crops, such as strawberries, the factor may be as high as 30.

The factory mass produced China Broad Group skyscrapers could drastically reduce the cost of buildings for vertical farming as well. Broad Group buildings can be seven times cheaper than the square foot cost of skyscrapers like the Burj Kahlifa (current world's tallest building.

Despommier suggests that, if dwarf versions of certain crops are used (e.g. dwarf wheat developed by NASA, which is smaller in size but richer in nutrients), year-round crops, and "stacker" plant holders are accounted for, a 30-story building with a base of a building block (5 acres (20,000 m2)) would yield a yearly crop analogous to that of 2,400 acres (9.7 km2) of traditional farming.

July 16, 2013

Carnival of Space 310

The Carnival of Space 310 is up at Chandra Xray Space Telescope Blog

It isn't everyday that the mainstream news covers space activities. CNN has a nice article on possible plasma shields for spacecraft.

Scientists at the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) plan is to create an environment around the spacecraft that mimics the Earth's magnetic field and recreates the protection we enjoy on the ground -- they call it a mini magnetosphere.

Note- Nextbigfuture did cover the Rutherford Appleton Laborator minimag radiation shielding work back in 2011

There was a 15 page powerpoint from 2010 that described the work at UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

When the neutral plasma encounters the magnetic field boundary the electrons are more easily deflected than the ions and thus charge separation occurs, resulting in the build-up of a large electric field which further strengthens the barrier.

RAL’s Ruth Bamford thought it should be possible, using a combination of the AMPTE-style plasma bubble and the JET-style magnetic field bubble to form an effective Mini-Magnetosphere.

"On Earth, mostly we're protected by the atmosphere but ultimately what the Earth's magnetic field is doing is forming a first line of protection for life," explained Bamford.

"The concept behind what we're suggesting is due to the evolution in our understanding of plasmas. What we discovered is that if you put a magnetic field around an object in a flowing plasma, the electrons, which are very light, will follow the new magnetic field that you've put there but the ions, the very fast ions, will overshoot -- they won't follow the magnetic field lines.

"You end up with a constant electric field that can be enough that it actually refracts or deflects enough of the radiation from inside the magnetic cavity that you've formed to protect the astronauts ... enough like the Earth that they can survive."

The RAL deflector shield she has helped to develop has been tested on a model inside a fusion reactor which produces a plasma like that of the solar wind. Bamford said they were delighted with the results.

July 15, 2013

Ben Goertzel is on a mission to build an "AI Toddler"

Ben Goertzel has been pondering questions of artificial intelligence since he was a teenager. During the past two decades, Goertzel has been developing and perfecting the OpenCOG AI software system. Dr. Goertzel believes that, with sufficient resources and time, OpenCOG could be used to create true machine intelligence. In an effort to expedite the development of OpenCOG, Goertzel has launched a crowdfunding project on indiegogo. This project has the ambitious aim of creating a "Sputnik moment" for the AI field by developing an robot with the proximate intelligence of a child. In an interview with Sander Olson for Next Big Future, Goertzel discusses how the field of AI has changed since 2009, how Artificial General Intelligence could be developed with relatively meager funding, and why the development of machine intelligence may be closer than most people believe.

Ben Goertzel interview (2013)

Question: I first interviewed you in 2009. How have things changed since then, in the world of AGI?

During the past four years, attitudes within the AGI community have changed dramatically. Many individuals and even some corporations now openly claim to be working on AGI related projects. Narrow AI still commands the lion’s share of money, and it is still difficult for an AGI project to garner funding, in either academia or industry. But one can clearly see the burgeoning acceptance of the concept of AGI – and of the notion that general intelligence can be created, potentially in the fairly near term, without resorting to reverse-engineering the brain.

China will double down on investing in solar power while Germany winds down government support for solar

China has raised its 2015 target for solar-electricity capacity, giving a shot in the arm to its solar companies, many of which are struggling due to industry overcapacity, slow global demand and overseas trade disputes.

China’s State Council, or cabinet, in a statement dated July 4 but posted Monday said installed capacity for solar electricity would reach more than 35 gigawatts by 2015, and would grow by about 10 gigawatts a year between now and then. China’s previous target was 21 gigawatts, and its installed capacity in 2012 was about 7 gigawatts.

The move is positive for Chinese solar companies, who will become eligible for more domestic projects, and who together provide more than half the world’s solar panels.

Germany Talks about Remove Solar Subsidies by 2018

Germany will stop subsidising solar energy by 2018 at the latest, its environment minister said after last year initiating a scaling-back of generous state support for the faltering industry.

Elon Musk will reveal details of the supersonic Hyperloop transportation system by August 12, 2013

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors Inc., will unveil designs for a solar-powered inter-city passenger transport system by Aug. 12.

Elon Musk announced his plans on twitter.

Will publish Hyperloop alpha design by Aug 12. Critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated.

Previously Elon Musk has given a brief summary of his vision for the Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop rapid transit system would connect downtown Los Angeles with San Francisco, 380 miles away. Musk told the crowd that more details for the project would be available on June 20th. Hyperloop would be "a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table." Musk joked, "even if I'm wrong about the economic assumptions, it would be a really fun ride." Musk claimed that his imagined train system would go "3 or 4 times faster than the [California] bullet train" or twice the speed of an aircraft, shuttling people from LA to San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It's possible that the Hyperloop could even be self-powering. "If you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries," he said.

The technology behind the system will be a “breakthrough” and Musk will be “happy to work with the right partners,” Musk said in Twitter posts today. Musk is seeking “critical feedback” on the system and will publish it as open source, according to the tweets.

Musk previously said that the so-called Hyperloop would be twice as fast as airplane travel and cheaper than high-speed rail

July 14, 2013

World's largest building has fake sun and beach like the movie the Truman Show

The largest building in the world is the New Global Century center in Chengdu China. It is 1600 feet long (500 meters) X 1300 feet wide (400 meters) X 300 feet tall (100 meters).

It the world's biggest building measured by floor space. The Boeing Everett Factory in Everett, Washington has the largest volume, and the Aalsmeer Flower Auction Building in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, has the largest footprint.

The centrepiece of the building is a 5,000 m2 (54,000 sq ft) artificial beach, a giant 150 by 40 m (490 by 130 ft) screen will form the horizon and offer sunrises and sunsets. The beach has a deck platform for seating for 6000 people. A US football field is 120 yards (109.7 meters) long by 53.3 (49 meters) yards wide. So LED screen is about 30% bigger than an American football field.

The warm rays which beam down on to the 5,000sq m beach come from an artificial sun that shines 24 hours a day using Japanese-invented specialised lighting ­technology that heats as well as illuminates the Paradise Isle ­Oceanic Park.

It also produces perfect sunrises and sunsets on a sophisticated LED display. At 150m in length and 40m in height the screen is the largest of its kind in the world and projects an “endless horizon” – an idyllic backdrop against which to surf the artificial waves before a “beach” party on the 7,000sq m deck which skirts the 400m-long stretch of fake coastline.

The marine theme begins on the outside of the building which has walls of blue glass and a wavy roof which is inspired by “sailing seagulls and undulating waves”. In the lobby artificial sea breezes waft through the 18-storey atrium and an entire wall is taken up with an aquarium which houses ocean fish and coral reefs.

Graphene can enable femtosecond switching and could lead to speeding up the internet by one hundred times

The use of graphene in telecommunications could dramatically accelerate internet speeds by up to a hundred times.

Ordinarily optical switches respond at rate of a few picoseconds – around a trillionth of a second. Through this study physicists have observed the response rate of an optical switch using ‘few layer graphene’ to be around one hundred femtoseconds – nearly a hundred times quicker than current materials.

Commenting on the report’s main findings, lead researcher Dr Enrico Da Como said: “We’ve seen an ultrafast optical response rate, using ‘few-layer graphene’, which has exciting applications for the development of high speed optoelectronic components based on graphene. This fast response is in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, where many applications in telecommunications, security and also medicine are currently developing and affecting our society.”

In the long term this research could also lead to the development of quantum cascade lasers based on graphene. Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers used in pollution monitoring, security and spectroscopy. Few-layer graphene could emerge as a unique platform for this interesting application.

Physical Review Letters - Carrier Lifetime in Exfoliated Few-Layer Graphene Determined from Intersubband Optical Transitions

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